Alex Steinweiss: The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover

It’s 1940 and a 23-year-old Alex Steinweiss, newly placed art director for Columbia Records proposes an idea to his employers; “Why not develop packaging for your record collections that feature bold, colourful illustrations that will entice the customers instead of the basic brown paper bags we’re using?” Steinweiss himself was an enthusiastic music lover and planned to create images that spoke of the enclosed music and offered a design to Columbia that also brought the concept of album cover art to the masses, ‘Smash Song Hits’ (1940 Richard Rogers). Cover art that combined the photography of New York’s Imperial Theater with a simple, but suggestive illustration of a 78rpm record, becoming the worlds first illustrated album cover. A huge success for Columbia, raising their sales figures by 800 percent and an industry changing moment. What followed was a prolific career in which he produced thousands of designs for classical, jazz and pop records, as well as advertising material, product design, type design, logos and film titles. All of which held fast to his own classically elegant, signature style.

Award winning art director Kevin Reagan and art historian Steven Heller present a definite monograph on ‘the godfather of album cover art’ in an impressive presentation that replicates the early Columbia record packaging itself and contains a wealth of work offering a powerful lesson in creative understatement. Perfect reference material for those seeking the minimalist design aesthetic of the 1940/50s and an essential title for students, designers, illustrators and art directors alike. Highly recommended.

Alex Steinweiss; The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover – By Keven Reagan
Hardback 420 pages
29.2 x 34.3 x 3.8 cm